Having a "Private Benjamin" Moment as We Approach the Finish Line

I have heard that there is "Rally Withdrawal" and I can imagine. We were off route for 24 hours and our re-entry was not pretty. I went to check into a hotel on my own the night before last, and I'm sure I looked like I was homeless and living out of our car, which, in fact, was true.

I wanna go to lunch. I wanna wear sandals. I wanna be normal again!

I want to get in a car and start it without wondering if it will start, and, for that matter, even use a key.

I want to have the car tell me when it needs fuel (it's not called gas anymore!), and not have to watch the kilometers and match that with fuel station locations.

I promise to never be a back seat driver again: "Entering roundabout at 6, exit at 12, missing 2..." 

If I ever see a clothing tag that says "dries overnight," that's not for me. I'm done washing my "outfits" in a bathroom sink or in the shower!

Buffets are dead to me. 

I will miss my rally friends every morning and evening, all of us with one goal and one destination, though many different paths.

I will miss the comfort of seeing those big, beautiful, red ERA Assistance trucks on the horizon. And, of course, everyone in them.

I am not "Car 58," "brown Porsche 356," "it's an 'A,' "Mrs. C" (xo Andy)... 

I'm JILL, Mrs. K, or, my favorite, Susette's Mom.

On the other hand. Java... that beautiful little brown beast did everything and more that we asked of him, and had a blast along the way.

Mongolia tried to take him out (us too!) and he has the scars to prove it. Java was just making sure we were paying attention to him.

Once he was taken back to the original Porsche engine, he was good to go. When we got to the Alps, he was ready to take them on. 

Java the dog was the same way, back to the basics except for an occasional down pillow. Windows down, a stream to go through, a big stick, and Jason were all he needed.

All of your words of guidance, encouragement, love and support these past three years are all part of this long and wonderful journey, and I wouldn't change a minute of it. See you on the other side.

Cheers and love,
Jill

We're On Our Own Journey Again!

We made it to San Martino di Castrozza, and Tony's fear of heights has gotten the better of him. I don't have the driving skills to take on the Alps and their switchbacks. 

Tony, Java and I are now looking for a way around the Alps. It is not a short or easy sojourn. Our plan is to rejoin the rally in Lausanne or the entry to France. 

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this, and, as always, we'll find our way!

-Jill

Lucy and Ethel... without Ethel!

Our good friend Jocelyn called the route book incident perfectly, so I thought I would provide a few more stories from our Peking to Paris adventure.

Bathroom situations, or, as Marti refers to it, "A bit of a wee"

So... I've learned to carry my own toilet paper. Apparently it's not a thing in China, Mongolia and Russia, and I should have been doing tons of squats before I left. I had a few too many teetering moments where I thought, "If I fall in, I'm not sure Tony will rescue me out of this 6 foot hole." The outhouse hygiene was so bad at one stop I had to ask Walid to stand guard while I went on the back side. 

On our second day in Mongolia the fuel stop actually had a bathroom inside the building. Of course there was a window facing the road, but at this point I didn't care. I went to exit the bathroom and found I was locked in! There was another rally competitor on the other side and he was trying to help, but no luck. Thank goodness for the window... Up on the ledge and out I climbed.

Never thought I would say this, but... I'm dreaming of the I-95 rest stops.

Never thought I would say this, but... I'm dreaming of the I-95 rest stops.

Black Lung

Only Tony! Once again, we were aiming for max lateness and I missed the turn into the hotel and went right to the parking lot... only to find out that the MTC (main time control) was in the lobby of the hotel. The shuttle buses to take us had just left, and we had to wait for the next.

At this point, we had 12 minutes to beat maximum lateness and keep the gold, and I am not calm, cool OR collected.

The next shuttle arrived. We load up, and it took off... only to get stopped in traffic. Tony told the driver to let him out in the middle of the road, and he will run as only Tony will do. 

Tony arrived with 3 minutes to spare and got us checked in. I arrived shortly after to find him barely breathing; apparently he inhaled most of the Gobi desert on that day's drive!

Camping

Not exactly my strong suit. I was a damsel in distress going into the campsites on many occasion.

As noted earlier, we were last into camp on most nights. That is not to say there weren't other late arrivals with many car issues too, of course! Tony would head with the car to the ER area and I would set up our tent.

Now, I am the girl who had to YouTube "how to set up a tent" on the night before our car was shipped. Nigel and Richard had to come to my rescue on the first two occasions. (If you know me, you know I've had other issues with setting up cabanas on beaches and having the whole beach watching and laughing at the hilarity.)

On our second camping night, we actually arrived during daylight. That said, it stayed light until 9, then 10, then 11 p.m. 

I was off to the shower with my microfiber towel and ready for the experience. There were not hooks in the tent showers, they don't have roofs, and they are a foot off the ground. I was prepared, though; I had my waterproof bag with clothes, shampoo, etc. I put my shoes just outside the shower (because of course I had forgotten my flip flops in the tent that I brought for this EXACT thing). I hung my pants over the top and began my shower. There was warm water but it was windy, so it was quite chilly.

I finish my shower and reached into my bag for my towel... only to realize I left it on the bench! I called out to see if there is anyone who could help, and the woman in the next shower went out to grab it for me, even though she was half-dressed herself. Rescued once again. Survivalist, I am not!

We keep laughing at ourselves, so we're doing great!

XO, Jill, Tony and Java

PS: We're almost to the finish line; follow our progress on the live tracker!

Paris or Bust!

Hello from the road! We are currently in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Next we head to head into Italy to San Martino di Castrozzo.

Java is great, and Tony and I are still having the time of our lives. We're having to cut a few of the more difficult time trials to ensure a Paris arrival. The Slovenian mountains seem as high as the Alps!

Here is a video of part of a time trial today. This was a 12.25 kilometer climb on gravel. Java rocked!

And look who we found! U.S. Army, on maneuvers in Slovenia.

Much love,
Jill

Days 21 and 22: Along the Volga River and on Our First Race Track!

Right now, we're on the road in Hungary on the way to Budapest. Click here to read ERA's daily reports, and below find our latest recap from Days 21 and 22 in Russia.

In Kazan, we had a lively 50th birthday celebration for Nigel, and then we were off to Nizhny Novgorod. 

 
 

It was a beautiful sunny morning crossing the Volga River, which is the longest in Europe. We got 58 kilometers from the hotel and BAM... the clutch cable broke.

On the side of the road again, Sweeps Jack and Allen saw us and thought, "What now!!!"

Two hours later, Jamie and Travis have us back on the road.

Day 22: Gentlemen, start your engines! At 7:30 a.m. we were called to our first race track for three time trials.

Tony was so excited and I was terrified. I kept saying, "Slow down!" although we were only going 49 kph (or, in American, 30 mph!). I was convinced we would tip over, or I would make us take a wrong turn... which is impossible on a race track. 

Then we hit the road, driving the M7 motorway to Zavidovo. We had another two time trials on the Nami track and on a hill climb. I calmed down a little.

And, we survived our first pontoon bridge!

Much love, 
Jill

The View from the Road on Peking to Paris 2016

Dust? Mud? Grass? Sand? Or concrete? Pick your poison!

Days 11 - 20: Superheroes and Switzerland in Russia

Right now, we're on Day 26 and in Poland! Click here to read ERA's daily reports, and below check out Jill's recap of our time in Russia. 

On Day 11, we crossed the border into Russia, heading for the Altai Republic and Aya. We cleared immigration and went to Customs, where they were searching the cars. Java's boot was open and our vehicle spill kit was on top, which included a quart-size clear baggy with green crystals.

There was lots of commotion, and the drug-sniffing dogs were all over us and in the car. The agents wanted Java emptied. We unloaded, feeling a little Breaking Bad, and didn't even want to make eye contact with each other.

Melvin from the car shipping company spotted this and headed over. He asked if he could put some of the crystals on our oil that had leaked out. That gave us all a big chuckle, and we were allowed to reload the car and head toward the Russian border... leaving the spill kit with the border agents.

We kept Java going long enough to cross the Russian border with no other fanfare and made it to a welder. I hid from the cold and mosquitos in Marti's car and had a cup of tea.

The scenery was beautiful, and reminded me of Switzerland: snow-capped mountains, evergreens, and rivers. We were riding very low, so drove cautiously. At about 4 p.m., we pulled over to clean our windshield. Travis and Jamie from the Endurance Rally Assocation crew pulled up to say they were going to follow us back; we were last again, they were concerned that our car was damaged, and they wanted us to head directly to the hotel. Unfortunately, we had already missed a shortcut.

Jamie handed me a handkerchief with the Superman logo on it. I was upset because I thought we were out of the rally. But the crew was proud of us for soldiering on under our own power, aka Java. He just won't (and wouldn't!) quit!

They followed us for a while, and honked to pull over. They wanted us to load all of our belongings into their truck so we didn't do permanent damage.

It turned out we weren't the only ones on the route; we found another broken down car, and the crew stopped to help them and sent us on. We were in steep mountains and Java was struggling. He finally just stopped, even though we knew the issue wasn't fuel.

Out came the satellite phone for help, but there was no signal. Tony did what he could and we started up again. We went a little way, and the ERA truck following the other car passed us by.

Our escort: police car up ahead and the red ERA sweep car in front of us!

A few seconds later, Java stopped again. We thought they were leaving us, and started honking. Tony got out and started running after them. They were trying to get the other car to a shortcut they discovered.

At this point, we were joined by the police, who wanted us gone. Travis and Jamie ignored these jesters, and I showed the female police officer our map and the hotel we were headed to. The guys got us up and running, giving up on our duel fuel systems and going back to the original Porsche one. They told us to go and they would take the flack. We headed to the shortcut, which was a closed, overgrown road. We kept on the current road and flagged the police, who were still following us. They offered to escort us to the main highway with lights on, everything. It turned out, we were lost in Siberia (my fear!).

We finally were on our way, and stopped for gas and snacks. By this time, we had hardly eaten in three days, and Tony hadn't showered in four. My pants were slipping off, so Jamie gave me his universal belt. We finally arrived at the hotel and all the mechanics descended on our car, determined to keep Java running and us in the rally.  

We provided lots of beer, vodka and food for our superheroes: Travis, Jamie, Andy, Tony, Owen, Jack, Bob, Gary, Allen and Dan.

In Yekaterinburg, I did my only sightseeing. Richard, Charbel and I walked to the site where the Czar and family was executed. We were cold but happy to get out and walk.

There was a lot of car drama on our rest day. Java made it two blocks from the hotel at 3:30 a.m., and then Walid towed it the rest of the way. Our good friend Travis got it running again at 8:55 a.m., 11 minutes before our start time! 

Travis back on the points in Tyuman.

Another day, another escort! This time, a local Russian (and peking to paris enthusiast) Towed us and two local motor cycle riders EScorted us, blocking traffic along the way to a garage.

We took it easy in preparation for our suspension to be repaired in Kazan. Even though, we had a couple of more than 600 kilometer days. 

Tony was pulled over by the Russian police for not having his headlights on. He pulled a Tony: very exaggerated "I'm sorry!" and hands to his face and everything. They let us go.

Our arrival to Perm was greeted by huge crowds! 

We went off route on the way to Kazan, following Bryon and Stephen, who somehow had NORAD in their car... thanks, guys. But finally, we reached Kazan and the parts we needed. Happy dance!

Kazan and the rest day on Day 20 marked the halfway point of the rally. As they wrote in the daily report that day, "Tony Connor had a shipment of Porsche suspension parts ready and waiting for him when he arrived so he spent the day at a Porsche specialist with a book of instructions in one hand and a spanner in the other."

Charbel, being helpful as always!

Much love,
Jill

Days 8, 9 and 10: Where Our Real Issues Began

We are currently on Day 24, in Belarus heading towards Minsk. Click here for daily reports, and continue below for the full story from our second week in the Peking to Paris race, written by Jill. 

Travis is the Porsche engine guru of the sweep mechanics. He and the guys are constantly adjusting our points, cleaning our filters and distributor, and giving me hugs and words of encouragement. We just can't seem to keep Java running. Late into every night they are with Tony, trying to keep Java and us in the rally. 

Java sputtered to a stop on day 8, in Mongolia between Murun and Uliastai. I put the OK sign up, but Mike and Georgia from Car 42 stopped anyway. We fiddled with a few things and Java started back up.

 
 

We went about 5 kilometers down the road and stopped again. I went to put the OK sign and my route book back on top of the car, when I realized that I had left it on top when we stopped before. It had fallen off somewhere in the last 5 kilometers!

Tony called for assistance and I headed out looking for my book. I walked about 15 minutes and a car of Mongolians drove up to offer me a ride. I shook my head and made the shape of my book with my hands. They carried on and so did I, on foot. But thankfully, a few minutes later, they returned with my route book in hand and offered to drive me back to Tony, which I accepted while thanking them profusely.

We later got stuck in mud and had to be towed out. At this point, it was 8:30 p.m., we were last on the route with 50 kilometers to go, and we were being followed in by an ERA red truck. The camp site was changed and I couldn't find the track. It was our first escort, and we made camp at 10 p.m. 

On day 9, we started from Uliastai with a great navigation tip from Christine in Car 65. On my Garmin compass screen, there is a countdown to the next waypoint, making it much easier to determine the exact turns we need to take! 

We were traveling at a better pace, and doing our best on time trials. Instead of going 1 kilometer off of a bridge, we went 8 kilometers and landed hard. There was lots of concerning banging sounds, so we stopped. Charbel and Walid of Car 61 to the rescue again! 

We got off and running, but soon got stuck in the sand. Car 90 with Stephen and Bryon, the photographer, and the crew to the rescue! We missed our final time trial finish and lost gold, limping into camp with the engine stopping at random and our rear dragging. Kudos to our great friends Charbel, Walid, Bryon and Stephen, who all made sure we got to camp near Chjargas Lake.

It was day two without a shower for Tony, as he was spending late nights trying to figure out Java's issues. 

Day 10: An absolutely beautiful day in Mongolia but the route to Olgiy almost took us out. Our engine failed multiple times, we had issues with our shock absorber, torsion bar, axle, etc. We had more ERA vehicles stopping to keep us limping along. 

Tony had to get out and walk different paths to figure out which Java could make it through. We were towed through one river crossing and plowed through another, not knowing we were supposed to be towed through it too. Andy and Tony (the ERA sweep mechanics/wizards) were following us at this point, and they were were amazed; we cried with joy and excitement.

It was another long day on the road. We were hoping to reach camp by 9 p.m. and heard a honk... we werere leaking oil. Our sump plate bolt was sheered off by some rock, and the guys made a makeshift plate out of a competitor's Peking to Paris license plate.

At about 11 p.m., it was getting dark and we headed towards camp, only to have the engine quit 50 yards later. Fancy fuel systems were torn out and the original one was hooked up. It was freezing cold, windy, rainy, and hailing. The guys gave me hugs and put me into the warm vehicle.

At 2 a.m. and we headed out again. The dust was terrible, so they asked if we wanted to go in front. It was pitch black and I could barely see; I am weak at navigating on a good day and this sent me over the edge, so we followed in the dust. Further down the road, a guy came into the middle of the road on a steep grade and flagged us down to tell us our DC license plate  was hanging off. We moved on after Tony removed the plate, heading downhill, and Java's engine stopped again. This time they thought we were out of fuel, so we were toward a couple kilometers to a fuel station and finally were good to go. We entered camp at 3 a.m. No dinner or showers.

We still wouldn't change this experience for anything in the world. 

Much love, 
Jill